THE FOURTH STAGE OF AWAKENING - Enlightenment: Fully Awakened Pristine Mind - Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)

Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)


Enlightenment: Fully Awakened Pristine Mind


THE FOURTH STAGE of awakening is the highest stage, the absolutely perfect enlightened stage of awakening. This final awakening is the most precious, beautiful, and amazing stage attainable, the culmination of our journey into Pristine Mind.


In the previous stages of awakening, our mind became increasingly pristine as we progressed through the stages, but it was not completely perfect. Mipham Rinpoche says that in this fourth stage, whatever arises in the mind is enlightened awareness. There is no impurity, distortion, ego, or any kind of imperfection whatsoever. These things simply do not exist in this fourth stage. In fact, they cannot exist in this completely pristine environment. Everything that arises in the mind is pure and pristine at all times and in all ways. Everything is a function of enlightened awareness, the enlightened mind.

As ordinary people, we have difficulty even imagining the completely enlightened state because it is different from anything we have experienced. In a totally ordinary state of mind, we never get a taste of what enlightenment means. Once we reach the second or third stage of awakening, it is easier to accept and understand what the completely enlightened stage will be like.

Enlightenment is not just the perfection of our mental state, but the perfection of our entire experience. Every area of our life becomes completely perfect—our relationships, our experiences, our perceptions, everything. In enlightenment, everything is perfect. Everything becomes naturally and effortlessly perfect. This is why it is referred to as “completely perfect enlightenment.”

You may ask how an enlightened person perceives the imperfect world, in which there is so much suffering, conflict, war, disease, and death. An enlightened person has the broadest and deepest possible view and always sees the big picture; such a person always responds to these circumstances with universal, all-pervasive, infinite compassion. So the mind of an enlightened person sees the suffering of beings at all times with uncompromising love and incomparably kind compassion, not with rejection, sadness, or any other negative feeling. This is the totally and naturally perfect mind of enlightenment. A person in ordinary mind, however, will perceive what happens and react in any number of ordinary ways, especially in negative ways, to situations that appear terrible. A person in ordinary mind might react compassionately to any particular situation. However, in ordinary mind, this compassion is limited to the particular situation and is colored by the ordinary mind’s reactions, which are often distorted and complicated.

If your response to events is to feel how terrible everything is, then you have an ordinary mind-set. But if your response is compassion, then you have a positive mind-set. If you have boundless compassion and see the big picture at all times and under all circumstances, then you have the enlightened mind-set.

When our mind is polluted, it is because we are living in opposition to the nature of the universe. Conflict naturally arises for someone with such a mind because the polluted, distorted mind creates friction with the universe. Therefore, the universe feels like an enemy. But when our mind is perfectly in harmony with the nature of the universe, then the world cooperates with us. We are in harmony with it, and it is in harmony with us. It is our perfect ally. Harmonious experience develops freely between us and the entire universe around us. If our mind is perfect in its compatibility with the universe, the universe will cooperate with us. That is the nature of fully enlightened experience.


Enlightenment is a measure of how well our mind is aligned with reality, undistorted by the ordinary mind, which misperceives on the basis of the desires and aversions that characterize our unenlightened attempts to find happiness and security. The more pristine our mind is, the more aligned we are with undistorted reality, the more we awaken. Enlightenment is the ultimately normal state of mind, and the ordinary mind is in fact, abnormal.

As we progress on the enlightenment journey, our mind becomes less fabricated, less contrived, and less distorted. We connect with the world more easily and straightforwardly because there are no barriers to doing so. People who have abnormal and distorted minds create walls and barriers that make it harder to connect with the world. It is harder for them to connect with friends and family as well as the rest of humanity. The more distorted the mind, the more barriers are created and the more difficult it is to relate to the world. In extreme cases, people can become completely isolated; since they are in such an abnormal state, they can’t connect with anyone. This isolated existence is completely, utterly impossible at the fourth stage of awakening.

Some people, having an incomplete understanding about the nature of enlightenment and the process of attaining it, believe that the more enlightened one is, the harder it is for them to relate to or connect with the world, that they can only feel comfortable in isolation. Others view enlightenment as a deliberate disengagement from the world, not out of discomfort, but in rejection of all worldly activities. In both of these cases, it is thought that the mind of enlightenment is totally withdrawn from the world, enjoying its own separate experiences of bliss. However, one does not withdraw from the world in the enlightenment that arises from Pristine Mind—in fact, the opposite occurs. In Pristine Mind, one is aware of the world of ordinary mind but sees it clearly, without distortion, and acts skillfully in every situation. For someone ensnared in the abnormal, distorted state of mind, it can be very difficult and frustrating to function effectively. The more they are connected to the pursuits of the world of ordinary existence, the more toxic states of abnormal mind they have to contend with, and thus the more difficulty they have relating to the world. But when the mind knows the true reality of experience, without distortion, none of these problems exist.

Enlightenment lets us relate to the world easily and function in the world very effectively. Enlightened people no longer distort reality. They accept reality and, by doing so, can adapt to it effectively, without tension or ego-based reactions. For this reason, enlightened connections are real connections, enlightened compassion is real compassion, enlightened happiness is real happiness, enlightened mind is real mind, and enlightened reality is true reality.

Enlightenment means that every area of an enlightened being’s inner experience is pristine, flawless, and authentic. All distortions in perception have disappeared. It is like the sun shining from behind dark clouds, brilliant and beautiful.

The more we progress along the stages of awakening, the more all of our abnormal states of mind gradually dissipate. We become mentally healthy and free from ego. Our mind is untouched by unhealthy misperceptions. When we reach the highest state of awakening, our mind is normal at every moment, no matter what we are doing or what may be happening.


Ordinary beings have distorted perception. Enlightened beings have undistorted perception. That is really the key difference. The more we progress along the stages of awakening, the less distorted our perception becomes. Our perception becomes more and more accurate and more in line with reality. Once we reach the highest level of awakening, then our perception is completely undistorted. Enlightened perception is perfectly undistorted perception. Nothing can distort it or pollute it.

When someone’s perception is no longer distorted, any experiences they have are authentic, pristine, flawless, and perfectly in line with reality. There are no misperceptions. There is no self-consciousness or awkwardness because of all the misunderstandings that come from distorted perception. A person who does not have distorted perception does not have these reactions. The enlightened state of mind is completely different from the ordinary, confused state of mind. Enlightened perception is no longer distorted, and therefore the person’s entire experience is totally healthy.

Pristine Mind practitioners have mastered their mind at the third stage of awakening. That means when thoughts or emotions arise, they have no effect. The mind of someone at the fourth stage is even more undistorted and unpolluted than at the second and third stages of awakening, because at the fourth stage of completely perfect enlightenment, there are no longer any negative tendencies, bad habits, or negative emotions. There is no attachment or aversion whatsoever. The fully enlightened person perceives the world perfectly accurately; they are seeing the truth.

The less distorted our mind, the more we see the world accurately, in an unfabricated way. We do not see it through distorted filters of beliefs or habits. We do not see it through any made-up state at all. We simply see pure reality as it is without characterization, manipulation, or judgment. When our mind is no longer distorted, when it is completely pristine, we see the world just as it really is.

Living in true reality, in Pristine Mind, is sometimes called “nonduality” because there is no separation between ourselves and everything else; there is no place where one can say our identity ends and the rest of the universe begins; there is no concept of “self ” and “other.” As a natural consequence of this, we are totally comfortable.

This is a progressive process. With each successive stage of awakening, primordial fear loses strength and fades away more and more. The more our mind resides in Pristine Mind, the less active primordial fear is.

Primordial fear cannot operate in the experience of nonduality, where we do not have an inflated or deflated ego that separates us from our world. In nonduality the world is simply continuous. There is no ego that we feel has to be protected from a world in opposition to it. Our awareness has expanded to encompass everything conceivable when we are fully, completely in Pristine Mind.


In this fourth stage of awakening, when our Pristine Mind is completely awakened, the problems we talked about in the first part of this book—the distortions and pollutions of the ordinary mind—have completely disappeared because all mental events arose from losing touch with Pristine Mind. These all start from and depend on misperception. When misperception is no longer there, everything related to and caused by misperception dissolves. The more familiar we are with who we really are, our natural state, the healthier our sense of self will be.

As we journey through these four stages of awakening, as we become pristine, the environment of our mind is completely transformed and our sense of self becomes healthy, happy, and more flexible. Our mind becomes loose and relaxed. Our unhealthy senses of self, including low self-esteem and egocentricity, completely disappear. One of the most beautiful components of enlightenment is a perfectly healthy and pristine sense of self.

We do not need to avoid, overcome, or destroy our ego to be enlightened. Our sense of an ego is a misperception, so there is nothing real to overcome. Once we correctly perceive the true nature of reality, the problematic ego just vanishes like a burst bubble. We do not need a big hammer to make this happen. When our perception shifts, the ego just disappears.

The ego itself is circumstantial. With Pristine Mind prominent, instead of ego, a healthy sense of self arises. We feel a complete mental and emotional well-being that nothing else can match or disturb. This is enlightenment: a perfectly healthy state of mind. This is ultimately what we all want—to be totally fulfilled, incomparably comfortable, and completely harmonious with the universe. That is what the Buddha wants—for everyone to have this ultimate mental and emotional well-being.

No matter how famous we are, how much wealth we have, how high our status, or how beautiful or educated we are, these things do not give us a healthy sense of self. Realizing and residing within Pristine Mind gives us a pristine and totally healthy sense of self.


When an enlightened being passes away, there is nothing to hold them down that makes their experience of death unpleasant. They do not resist the inevitability of death. Nothing can distract their buoyant Pristine Mind because there are no heavy mental events weighing down on their consciousness. They do not have any negative, unpleasant experience or fear. There is no terror of falling to some lower rebirth or hell-like realm, or passing into some unknown territory. They do not have such a strong attachment to the world that they cannot let go of it. Thus, when enlightened people pass, their mind effortlessly dissolves into the beautiful pristine state.

Those whose minds are pristine have pristine experience. They do not have polluted, distorted, or confused experience. The only dimension they can enter is a pristine dimension, such as a pure realm of enlightened beings.

And enlightened beings appear again in our world, out of their compassion to act as perfect guides for all others to attain enlightenment. To help others have Pristine Mind and become free from distortions, they reappear in many different dimensions, times, and places, and especially to human beings to help guide them to attain completely perfect enlightenment.


Once we know about enlightenment and the process of Pristine Mind practice described in this book, then we know better how to relate to enlightenment. We don’t need to treat it like some kind of foreign or exotic idea, or as if it is lifetimes away. We are able to relate to it and have an intimate, actual connection to enlightenment. This is really what we all want.

We are born into this world. Temporarily we connect with each other, but no matter how long the connection may last, ultimately we all go our separate ways. No one can know what will happen to them in this unpredictable, ever-changing world. Enlightenment is the most beautiful way to explain that there is something with ultimate meaning that we can know and achieve, to be truly happy. All other goals are just temporary and ultimately elusive.

Until complete enlightenment, everything is unstable and transitory. We cannot find anything material that will endure or make us happy no matter what. We want our mind to be pristine, consistently free from all entanglements and distortions, and unconditionally happy. That is what we want to experience. Only in that experience can we feel safe. There is no other safe place to go. The only truly safe place is Pristine Mind.


True devotion—the appreciation we feel and express for enlightenment and the unconditional happiness it brings—is not based on blind faith. Devotion comes only through our own study and practice. The more we study, the more we practice meditation, and the more teachings we actually take into our hearts, the more inspired we will feel. Then we will experience a natural connection with enlightenment. This connection with enlightenment—not an unknowing trust in a mysterious “higher power”—is genuine faith.

The more we study and practice meditation and benefit from the meditation experience, the more we are drawn to manifestations of enlightenment, such as the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. We feel profound respect for them, our hearts open to receive their wisdom and compassion, and we are inspired to follow in their footsteps. That respect, that heart-opening experience, and that inspiration are also forms of devotion.

Genuine devotion and faith are not feelings that can be imposed by dogma or authoritarian decree. There isn’t some kind of rule where we are told, “You must have faith and devotion.” Faith and devotion come authentically from within. In our devoted state we really appreciate enlightenment and take refuge in it. We recognize it as our ultimate protection. These feelings occur naturally, without having to do anything to create them.

No one can tell us to fall in love. No one can say, “You must fall in love.” The conditions need to be there for us to fall in love. To love someone, first we need to know that person. The more we spend time with that person, the more we see their qualities and characteristics, the more we appreciate and admire them. And then slowly through our interactions, through getting to know them more, we begin to fall in love with them and develop the intimate connection of love.

Devotion works exactly the same way. The more we study, listen to, and read the Buddha’s teachings, the more we meditate and contemplate enlightened qualities, then the more a natural inspiration arises to connect with enlightenment. This connection to enlightenment naturally builds in our mind. We then truly respect, appreciate, and want to connect even more with enlightenment. Whether we are in a happy or a difficult time in our life, we admire and love enlightenment at all times. We always think and feel in our heart how special enlightenment is.

When we talk about faith and devotion, we are talking about building this type of connection with enlightenment. We sometimes hear the term “taking refuge” in Buddhist teachings. Once we have this type of faith and devotion, then we automatically take refuge in enlightenment. This devotion inspires us to practice meditation, and it inspires us to continue our practice in order to attain enlightenment. All these are the results of genuine, authentic devotion and faith.

As you progress in your meditation, you will find yourself thinking, “I really want enlightenment. I want it, I want it! Please give me a boundless mind right now, at this moment!” You will pursue your meditation with enthusiasm and determination. This is where your faith flowers and your devotion to the teachers of enlightenment blossoms.

All positive experiences will enter your life when you understand the teachings in this book and begin meditating. Something internally will click, and you will get it. When you see what was not seen before, everything opens and expands, and becomes crisp, clear, vivid, and brimming with wonder and freshness. All limitations dissolve and fall away. You will witness a tremendous process of growth in your appreciation of enlightenment.

This is my wish for you. Connect with Pristine Mind. Admire Pristine Mind, and rejoice in it.